The development of commercial grade fossil-free synthetic aviation fuel has taken a giant leap forward after Zero Petroleum signed a contract to work with the Royal Air Force on scaling up the technology to support its net zero goals.

The research programme – announced at the Farnborough International Airshow – will provide data to evidence the scalability and efficiency of the technology, which could be a viable alternative to fossil fuels.

Zero Petroleum’s synthetic fuels are direct drop-in replacements for existing fossil-based aviation fuels. They deliver the same performance and range as existing products, but with an entirely sustainable and fossil-free circular lifecycle. The fuels have the potential to massively reduce and eventually eliminate reliance on fossil fuels in the aviation industry.

Zero Petroleum, which is founded and run by former Formula One team Technical Director Paddy Lowe, began working with the RAF last year.

Creativity and ingenuity

Defence Procurement Minister Jeremy Quin said: “The creativity and ingenuity of the RAF and UK industry, backed by our ring-fenced research and development funding, has resulted in ground-breaking new fuel technology. It has the potential to improve operational resilience while eliminating fossil carbon emissions in flight.”

Zero Petroleum Founder and CEO Paddy Lowe said: “The RAF’s vision for fossil-free flight using synthetic fuels is matched by Zero Petroleum’s commitment and enthusiasm to deliver the solution using unique British technology. Together we showed what was possible with our record-breaking demonstration flight in 2021. We are incredibly excited to start now on the important development of this technology to production readiness in advance of deployment at scale to flight operations. We could not wish for a better partner than the RAF, which has been a pioneer throughout its 100+ years of existence.”

Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston said: “This ground-breaking collaboration with Zero Petroleum is a glimpse of the future for aviation fuel. It points to how we will crack the NetZero challenge as a national and international endeavour, and the leading role the Royal Air Force and UK science and technology can play in that”.

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